Bahay Kawayan Is Long in the Plate

[Hole In the Wall] Los Alamitos' first Filipino restaurant is small but delicious

I literally ran into Bahay Kawayan, starving after a day driving across Southern California, needing a starch-filled pick-me-up before I could take on the night. One elderly lady grunted her welcome as I made a beeline to the turo-turo trays; another never looked up from her iPhone. A middle-aged woman sat behind the counter, eyes closed as KNBC-TV Channel 4 bored her, waking in time to see me ogling the adobo and bangus before me.

"Filipino food!" she barked, with no patience this evening for lookie-lous.

"I know," I shot back, ogling the sausages, pointing at them and, not quite remembering their names, mumbling, "Longsilog . . ."

"Longanisa!" she snapped, muffling her derisive snort.

"That's right—longsilog is a breakfast," I gamely responded, following with a slew of other members of the genre to appear legit—tosilog, daingsilog, adosilog and others. She wouldn't have it.

"What do you want?" she asked, annoyed. The décor was sparse—stark pictures of meals, washed out by the flash; a television; a glass case holding a boxing glove autographed by Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao as if it were a holy relic. The menu options were limited—the one-item combo, or two, with about eight choices from the buffet for this off-hour between the lunch and dinner rushes.

"The longanisa and the pancit," I said.

Now it was her turn to be impressed. "You know pancit?"

Of course I did, along with most of the other treasures of Filiipino food, which I'll always maintain is the most criminally unappreciated cuisine in Orange County. She served up two scoops of garlic-tinged fried rice; three fat, glistening longanisas; and a mound of pancit noodles in a Styrofoam to-go plate before asking if I was dining in or out. In. "Oh, well," she laughed. "If you can't finish it, at least you can take it home."

I asked for the vinegar and Jufran. "You know about banana sauce?" she gasped.

Of course. She offered a complimentary bowl of chicken sinigang, the tamarind-based sour soup, and recommended I drink calamansi juice, which is derived from a citrus fruit whose flavor profile is somewhere between a navel orange and a mild lime. I devoured everything in minutes—a Pinoy party worthy of many visits. As I got up to pay, I asked the counter lady if she had any halo-halo, the legendary Filipino take on shaved ice.

"Not until a couple of weeks, when it's hotter," she replied, smiling for the first time. "You come back for that, okay?"

Damn straight.

 

This column ran in print as "Long In the Plate."

 
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5 comments
rdokoye
rdokoye

You know, I've tried so many different foods, but I've never had Filipino food before.

EvanOrangeCounty
EvanOrangeCounty

This place appears to be closed now.  Tried going on Feb 2, 2013 and found an Indian restaurant in its place.  Phone number is disconnected, so I'm assuming they didn't just move to another location.

JAHRASTAFARI.......
JAHRASTAFARI.......

I visited Bahay Kawayan(Bamboo House; F.Y.I.) today because of your article and the owners/employees were very freindly, overly generous, and overall pleasant so I'm really disappointed in how you disrespected and belittled the women who served you. I understand that you do critiques on restaurants in the O.C. for the weekly but it does'nt mean every restaurant you visit should kiss your a$$ just because your familiar with their cuisine. Being half Filipino and growing up in a prodominantly Filipino household, I understand the culture just like you probably understand your own Spanish-colonized Mexican heritage. One thing I was taught is to always respect my elders, aunties, and uncles reguardless of their rudeness. I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about? I have been in numerous Mexican, Peruvian, Cuban, El Salvadorian and even Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants and just because I am very familiar with their cuisine, it didn't mean they treated me extra special or they were (impressed just because i can say can I have some LOMO SALTADO or TOM YOM KAI ; HINT;HINT). The lady you totally dissed even offered you a complimentary bowl of sabaw. ( soup;F.Y.I.). Being Filipino, I personally have been to Filipino restaurants where I had to ask for free soup and not have it been offered to me but offered to the person in front of me. (BOOHOO WAHWAH) I did appreciate how you decided to big up Bahay Kawayans food at the end of your article and how you said you would be back for HaloHalo but a small family-owed business who probably is just holding on considering they are in a not so busy strip mall probably doesn't need a HATER like you to bring them down. If you want to critique a Filipino Restaurant who can afford it why don't you go to CERRITOS or CARSON or WEST COVINA. Or maybe there might be to many old Filipino Aunties for you to pick on huh? Oh, and to the other guy who commented on your article. You said you were half PINOY, a quarter PUTI, and a quarter NATIVE AMERICAN. I'm very surprised you are of this decsent considering your lack of respect. Filipnos and Native Americans have more respect for their elders than that so maybe you were raised by your EUROPEAN side. You say you look more Mexican than anything so have you ever been into a Caucasian business and they discriminated on you for not being WHITE( PUTI; F.Y.I.) Since you are also a quarter white as you say!!! Because that happens to me every single day of my life (TANGA)...KEEP IT REAL>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

cuppanoodles
cuppanoodles

Being half-filipino and half-white/native american who looks relatively mexican, I've had numerous experiences like this at filipino restaurants in the US. At one filipino restaurant in Houston, the lady behind the counter didn't greet me but only asked if I was lost. I've since become accustomed to the poor and unfriendly service some filipino restaurants have, especially if its an older person behind the counter working. And if my non-filipino friends are serious about eating filipino food, I won't take them to a restaurant. I'll just invite them to the next filipino party one of my relatives or friends of my family will throw.

 
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